Authenticity as a servant leader means reflecting your genuine concern for others in the completeness of how you live every day. Being an authentic servant leader is not something you do, it is who you are. As a result, servant leaders should consider the following guidelines when posting on their various personal social media accounts:
- Never post any article that you have not actually read. Drama manipulators often post inflammatory and dramatic headlines on legitimate articles designed to inflame political passions knowing that unthoughtful people who agree with their broad sentiment will post and react to the dramatic headline without reading the article (which often even says the opposite of what the manufactured headline screams). If the content is not consistent with the headlines, posting it is contributing to drama without substance, not thoughtful discourse.
- Go to the source and make sure you want to be associated with it. There are a variety of web based “news sources” created by drama manipulators that produce stories with careless abandon regarding truth. When you see a hyper dramatic headline, go to the source and look at the overall tone and tenor of what they are posting. If they post a variety of dramatic stories that feel questionable, odds are that the story you are considering posting is questionable as well. And if you post questionable items from questionable sources, you yourself become known as someone who is a questionable source.
- Never abandon a passionate commitment to truth regardless of whether you agree with the sentiment. Drama manipulators regularly manufacture overtly false information designed for shallow thinkers to share, and in so doing advance their political agenda. Before posting anything, set aside your political beliefs and your emotional engagement on the issue, and ask yourself, do I REALLY believe this is true? The more dramatic a claim is, the more committed you should be to researching something on Snopes.com before posting it. In 2013, there was a spate of postings claiming the federal government had a secret network of underground tunnels connecting abandoned Walmarts from which the US Army was going to launch a takeover of Texas. When you post something false and irrational, you damage your influence and credibility and cause thoughtful friends to quietly question your judgment, your wisdom, and in some cases, your relationship with reality. Servant leaders know that credibility is precious and to be nurtured.
- Never post anything that is hateful in tone. Without regard to your political beliefs, if you post things that are dramatic and hateful in tone toward “the other side” you diminish your credibility as a servant leader with those who disagree with you. When you post hateful things about a particular leader, he or she may not ever read your post but it will build a wall between you and friends who support that leader. You can share your perspectives without being hateful in tone. Servant leaders are focused on building bridges not walls, even when disagreeing on substance.
- Have the emotional intelligence to recognize hateful comments. One of the tendencies of drama manipulators is to claim that what they posted is “not hateful, it is just telling the truth.” Just because you claim that something isn’t hateful doesn’t keep it from being hateful and mean spirited. Posting hateful comments about other people is always in conflict with a servant leader’s commitment to being a healer.
- Focus on your opportunity to influence others more than on your right to free speech. Yes you have the right to say dramatic, hateful, and demeaning things about political leaders (and others). A good thing about our constitution is that we have that freedom. However, just because you have the right to say something mean spirited does not mean it is constructive or beneficial to do so. Servant leaders recognize that the way we express ourselves affects the credibility of what we have to say.
- Avoid stereotyping. Social media is rampant with political, racial, gender, religious, and other stereotypical postings that demean and drive divisions between groups. Before posting anything that uses broad stereotypes about any group, think about someone you consider a personal friend who is a part of that group. Ask yourself if someone you disagreed with said the same things about your friend that you are posting about the group, whether that would be hurtful to your friend. If it would be hurtful if the exact same post called them by name, odds are it is hurtful when it stereotypes the group they are a part of. If you don’t have anyone who is a member of that group you would consider a personal friend, recognize that posting a broadside attack on that group using stereotypes is at best an act of ignorance that is spreading hateful attitudes.
The bottom line is that your mother was right – we are known by the company we keep. If our social media presence is marked by hateful, demeaning, and mean spirited articles, memes, and postings, then we will be known as someone who values hateful, demeaning, and mean spirited attitudes toward others — the antithesis of a Servant Leader’s heart.
Before posting anything on your personal social media, ask yourself 5 questions:
- Am I sure it is factually true?
- Is the content I am sharing coming from sources I want to be associated with?
- Does it diminish anyone?
- Is it hateful in tone?
- Does it expand my influence – even with those who disagree with me?